This past fall semester, Wade Hollingshaus took a professional development leave in London, England. The nine week leave was full of theatre experiences and library research.
In preparation for returning to teaching full time, the leave was the perfect opportunity to be immersed in current theatre after serving as department chair for six years.
In an effort to exercise his critical mind and expand his range, Hollingshaus saw a wide variety of different kinds of theatre. Among the 30 shows that he saw in London, his favorites were My Neighbour Totoro, Eureka Day, Good, The Doctor, and Not One of These People. Many of the productions explored new ideas and trends in the current theatre world. My Neighbour Totoro, based on a film by Studio Ghibli, featured music by the original composer of the film, Joe Hisaishi, and gigantic puppets created by the Jim Henson Company. Eureka Day (first produced in 2018, well before Covid-19) featured pertinent themes dealing with mandatory vaccines in schools. Good featured a wonderful performance by David Tennant. Not One of These People utilized AI technology to generate the performance–the playwright would say the lines, which were then fed through an AI generator that would create video apparitions of people speaking. The performance art had no scenes, just this series of short blurbs.
One of Hollingshaus’ research interests is how meaning is communicated through what popular musicians do on stage, so being able to attend 20 concerts was a special opportunity to observe and analyze, all while enjoying good music. Among the 20 concerts that Hollingshaus saw, his favorites were from Art Brut, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Pavement, and Fontaines D.C. The Bon Iver concert even featured a surprise performance by Taylor Swift–who joined with lead singer Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner to sing “Exile.”
Hollingshaus shares that after only a few weeks of classes this semester, he’s already been able to tie in much of what he saw and learned in London. He expressed that due to the nature of theatre as a live event, you constantly have to stay current because “theatre is by its nature an art of the here and now.”
Says Hollingshaus, the time in London “revivified my spirit and reminded me of my passion for thinking about how theatre thinks.” He was reminded that there are so many different ways to think through theatre beyond just putting on a show, and he enjoyed those moments that successfully surprised him with how current and innovative they were.
The other side of Hollingshaus’ leave in London consisted of research on Peter Gabriel at the British Library for hundreds of hours. Hollingshaus has been exploring Gabriel’s music, concerts, music videos, soundtracks, and “experience” projects that make him unique. From commissioning artists to create pieces inspired by the songs on his Us album, to releasing a “Bright-Side” mix of a song on each full moon and a “Dark-Side” mix of the same song on the following new moon, to creating his “Swap” project consisting of exchanging covers with various artists, Gabriel has always forged his own path in the music industry.
Hollingshaus wants to follow Gabriel’s conceptual and rhythmic style as he writes his book. He shares that Gabriel wrote one of his albums with no cymbals in order to keep the rhythm flowing, and comments that he wants “to write a book that doesn’t have any cymbals.”
Hoping to finish the book in a year and a half, Hollingshaus jokes that it’ll be done in September–not specifying which one, just as Gabriel would always do when questioned about releasing his next album.
Having finished his professional development leave, Hollingshaus returns to BYU with passion and energy to pour into his teaching and writing.